Seat belts. They're pretty simple, just a strap (likely made of something simple like polyester) that covers your torso and lap in a car/truck. Their purpose is to keep you safe, but how safe can they really keep you?
From a young age we're buckled into place with these, and when we can do it ourselves, constantly reminded to put them on. Some kids even go through phases of not wearing seat belts, be it to be defiant, or simply because clipping them into place is an 'inconvenience' for them. Even adults can be seen skipping over clicking themselves into place, its so likely that laws were put into place to enforce the use of seat belts.
In Drivers Education we're shown practically horror movies of what will happen if you don't buckle up, if you text and drive, drink and drive etc. etc. We're shown videos of people who go through windshields, are thrown around their cars. Even the commercials on regular TV advertise how safe a car is. They'll show you what kind of wreck a car (and you) can survive, but the people inside are almost always belted.
A little under a month ago, I was shown how crucial it really is to wear seat belts. I've always been the kind of person who is too terrified of what can happen to not wear a seat belt, but I've never truly been in a situation where I needed one, one where a wearing or not wearing a seat belt could make a real impact on me.
While on my way to work, I got into my first (and hopefully only) semi-serious car accident. To sum it up, while being the passenger, a car tried to pass ours on the shoulder of a one-lane-per-side road. When they realized it wasn't happening, they simply accelerated and cut harder into our lane, causing a collision.
The first thing I saw besides their car hitting ours, was the glass shattering from their drivers side window. From there things got blurry, and I don't mean from memory loss. The impact was so hard, it caused my glasses to fly clear off my face and off to god knows where before my mom spotted them and handed them to me. My immediate reaction was to not move, and to make sure everyone in our car was okay, but I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that in the moment I didn't even know who's glass was flying. One of the first questions the paramedics asked is if we were belted, and even though I said yes, I didn't realize then how serious it would've been if we hadn't.
When I finally got home many hours later, I started to realize how lucky I was for having had my seat belt on. Even now, I truly think if I wasn't belted, I would've easily gone through the windshield considering both of our speeds, and the harshness of the impact. It shook me how easily the fate of, perhaps, my entire life, could've been different if I hadn't been wearing a seat belt.
Anyone can tell you to buckle up. Your mom, your friend, a teacher, even a police officer, but you can always brush that off. You can acknowledge how serious things could change without one, and you can even acknowledge that you're breaking a law by not wearing one, and still not wear it. You can tell yourself it won't matter, that nothing is going to happen, that you'll be fine, but they're there for a reason. Seat belts really do matter.
So, how safe can they really keep you? Very. They can make a life or death difference, not just in my own experience, but to many others in the world. A seatbelt can mean being kept in place rather than flying around inside a car, it can mean keeping you inside a vehicle, it can mean walking, or not walking. Seat belts, though incredibly small, flimsy, and forgettable, can help to shape how your life can turn out should something traumatic happen to you.
The next time you get in your car, please buckle up. For me, for someone who can tell you first hand, that they can really make a difference. For your parents, your siblings, your pets, your children, all of your loved ones. Take an extra 10 seconds of your time to secure your seat belt. That extra time could mean you coming home again, or you not coming home again.
The truth about seat belts is that they are life savers. You might put yours on without a thought, and you might skip past them in the same habit. They take no time to put on, take no thought to clip down before starting to drive, they cost nothing to put on. But, they could cost you something if you don't have them on.
The truth is that seat belts are one of the many small but might things this world has to offer, so the next time you're going to work, or school, or even the grocery store, buckle up. Give yourself the assurance of being okay should the unlikely happen. Things happen, bad and good, but the bad can be minimized with these little belts. Take advantage of what they have to offer you.